Gotcha Day

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"Gotcha Day" is an term used by some to describe the day of adopting a child or animal. It is considered offensive by some, who feel it relegates the adoptee to the level of a commodity.

One of the problems with "Gotcha Day", according to Judy Miller, an adoptive parent educator in Indianapolis, and author of What To Expect From Your Adopted Tween, is that adoption can’t occur without loss and abandonment. Gotcha Day" can heighten those feelings as children age, Miller says.

While plenty of parents love celebrating the moment their adoptive son or daughter was placed in their arms, there are those who believe "Gotcha Day" demeans the adoption process and focuses on the adult's experience of events. As kids get older, adoption experts also worry that emphasizing the date may heighten or trigger deep feelings of loss for a teenager or young adult. For Karen Moline, a Parents For Ethical Adoption board member, the word "Gotcha" is deeply insulting, especially in light of unethical international adoption agencies. No matter how pure your dreams of being a parent are, Moline reminds people, "a child just isn’t something to be gotten like a car or a computer."[this quote needs a citation]

In her book, The Joy of Family Rituals, Barbara Bizou wrote, Gotcha Day "is designed to show your adopted child how much you wanted him and that every year you continue to cherish him."[1]


In the book, Primary Care Pediatrics, the authors point out that the celebration of the birth of a child is practiced in many cultures, but that as a general rule, nobody from the adoptive family was present for the child's birth. Depending on the circumstances, the exact birth date may even be unknown. The book advises doctors to suggest "an additional to the traditional birthday celebration, that is, the 'gotcha day.' ... the provider who encourages the adoptive family to commemorate the anniversary of their child's homecoming supports them in their celebration of family, strengths, and bonds."[2] The "'Gotcha Day' is distinguished from the day of birth, perhaps marking the rupture of the child's biological family and her social rebirth into an adopted family."[1]

While many families treat Gotcha Day's in a manner similar to a child's birthday, some treat it with extra care. Families will often exchange gifts, do special activities, and go out to dinner.[3] One tradition entails the family standing in a circle passing a candle and sharing how having the adopted child in their family is important to them. Bizou states that the parents should "Talk about what it felt like to hold him, what you did first when you got home, how strange and wonderful it was to have this new life in the house. This story is part of a family legend."[1] Children's Home Society and Family Services recommends that families "develop a family ritual to celebrate the unique way [the] family came together."[4] Ni Hao, a quarterly magazine for families with children adopted from China, asks families to submit their Gotcha Day stories after the child's first Gotcha Day.[5] Some families use the "Gotcha Day" celebration as a means to educate teachers and friends about adoption, in so doing it 'normalizes adoption, creating a social reality in which adoptive families can be seen as a normal kind of family.' [1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Gotcha Day: Marking a child's entry into a community of loved ones". Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  2. ^ Green-Hernandez, Carol. Primary Care Pediatrics. Lippencott. ISBN 978-0-7817-2008-3. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  3. ^ "Share Your Story: Gotcha Day Celebrations". Adoptive Families Magazine. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  4. ^ "Celebrate adoption by sharing your story". Children's Home Society and Family Services. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  5. ^ "CHSFS China Program Celebrates 1000th Child". Ni Hau. 2005-02-01. Retrieved 2009-03-23.